Oct 172009

Common Names: Goldenrod, Blue Mountain Tea, Liberty Tea

Botanical Name: Solidago spp.

Taste & Impression: Bitter, Aromatic, Astringent, sl. diffusive

Energetics: Warm, Dry

Parts Used: Flowers & Flower Buds, Leaves, Roots

Actions: digestive bitter, alterative, stimulant and relaxant nervine, diaphoretic, astringent, digestive aromatic (and carminative), diuretic, vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, bacteria-balancing (often termed anti-infective)

Specific Indications: Red, inflamed eyes, “bad skin” related to suppressed urine or underactive kidneys, atonicity of mucus membranes accompanied by copious dripping and fluid loss and possible low-grade infection, cat dander allergies

goldenrodEvery year, I anticipate the golden glory of late summer and early autumn in the Gila. The hills blaze with a thousand shades of yellow, from buttery layers of lemon to brilliant displays of bronze. From Snakeweed to Senecio to Verbasina to Lemonscent to Gumweed, the Canyon is bathed in a breath-taking display of sun-colored beauty. Of all of these, one of the blooms I most anticipate is the ubiquitous yet precious Solidago in all her many manifestations and subspecies!

Here in New Mexico, Goldenrod is especially fond of growing on shady hillsides and in rocky yet moist arroyos in the middle mountain range. It will often be found intermixed with the by now dried stalks of Beebalm and the last ragged blooms of the Evening Primrose. It is likely to be surrounded by the wild rays of aromatic Purple Sticky Aster, white flowered Fleabane and the ever prolific autumn blooming Senecio.

I love creating Goldenrod flower oil, tincture, honey, elixir and even dry a bit for tea as well if the harvest is plentiful enough. This gorgeous wildflower is both common and incredibly multipurpose. Before I begin my exploration of Goldenrod’s medicinal talents, let me assure you that it is not responsible for the massive pollen allergies it’s accused of. In fact, it’s not even wind pollinated, but rather insect pollinated and as such, its pollen is heavy and sticky rather than buoyant enough to float on the late summer winds right into your nose. You’ll have to get down on your hands and knees and snort some Solidago pollen straight from the flower to get a reaction in most cases. Usually, it’s actually Ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) that’s causing the allergic affliction, which frequently grows alongside Goldenrod.

Perhaps one of this wildflower’s best known medicinal uses is as an astringent and anti-inflammatory, specifically for copious discharges of the mucus membranes. The tincture is great for drying up sinus drippiness and allergy induced nose running and also addressing sinus headaches and general congestion, especially if there’s overall coldness.

David Hoffmann says:

“Golden Rod is perhaps the first plant to think of for upper respiratory catarrh, whether acute or chronic, It may be used in combination with other herbs in the treatment of influenza.”

It is useful for achy, sore throats later in the later stages of many influenza type viruses, and a teaspoon of the flower infused honey soothes a raw throat as well as calming congestion and insistent drippiness.

Matthew Wood has greatly popularized Solidago in the treatment of allergies, especially animal dander related allergies and says:

“I know of no better remedy for cat allergy.  Boericke describes the characteristic eye symptoms: ‘red, injected, watery, stinging, burning.’  The eyes of the Solidago patient look like a person who has just gotten out of a swimming pool.  There is a generalized redness of the conjunctiva.  There are not the bright red blotches of Euphrasia, or the bloodshot appearance of Ambrosia.  With this there is congestion, sneezing and running of the nose, redness and irritation of the skin.  Solidago often has welts from allergy, a fact not mentioned in the literature I have seen.”

goldenrod2Additionally, Goldenrod flower tincture or tea makes an excellent primary or secondary therapeutic approach to thrush or vaginal yeast infections triggered by pollen, dander or other allergies, especially when combined with Beebalm (Monarda spp.). For non-allergy related chronic yeast infections I have found it of moderate use, and its effect is greatly enhanced by Beebalm and/or Alder (Alnus spp.). It also has a long history by indigenous North American people as a douche or vaginal soak in the treatment of infections, for general discomfort and preventative hygiene. While I am not a proponent of douches, I do think that herbal sitz baths can be extremely helpful in persistent, low-grade yeast infections.

It’s also a fabulous kidney medicine, and is specific where urine is scant, dark and strong-smelling from kidney sluggishness in nearly anyone, from children to the elderly. It is also known to prevent the formation of kidney stones where there is a long history of such, and I like to combine it with Chamomile in many preventative blends. It also has a long history of use in the treatment of current stones and/or infection, but kidney infections can be very dangerous and in most cases, should be handled by a health care practitioner. If used in the breaking down or passing of stones, and there is any duct pain it should probably be combined with a smooth muscle relaxant such as Silk Tassel (Garrya) or something similar.

Goldenrod is very useful in many cases of chronic urine suppression and general exhaustion of the kidneys. This is especially true where there is a tendency towards symptoms we usually associate with liver stress, such as “bad skin”, acne, inflamed yet deep pimples, dry and bloodshot eyes, which Matthew Wood indicates is due to the buildup of uric acid and the added stress placed on the liver by the long-term sub-functioning of the kidneys. It is so multi-purpose within this organ system that the late herbalist Maria Treben recommended it in all cases of kidney and bladder issues.

I also like Goldenrod in a variety of UTI type situations in which there’s a chronic, boggy and usually low-grade infection that won’t clear up, usually combined with an appropriate mucus membrane tonic. I tend to think Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica) and Goldenrod tend to make an excellent pair in such cases, and because of Goldenrod’s beneficial diuretic action I prefer it as a tea with tincture of Yerba Mansa added to it or taken on the side.

Ananda Wilson, Medicine Woman student and fabulous herbalist, first told me of her discovery that Goldenrod elixir is really wonderful for SAD and general cold, gloomy blues. In the couple of years since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Goldenrod many times in this capacity, and it never fails to work small but significant miracles where clearly indicated.  It works very well in many cases of mild to moderate depression, especially where there is seasonal sensitivity and general feelings of coldness, frustration and a feeling of being paralyzed by cold weather or more specifically, lack of sunlight (and don’t forget the Vit D too in such cases). I am also very fond of it in where digestive stagnation is causing feelings of sadness, stuckness and potential despair, and in such situations often team it up with Rose and Ginger.

The leaf tea has long been utilized among Appalachian grannywomen as a tonic for chronic fatigue and nervous exhaustion. I have noticed that it works best in this capacity if the individual is exhausted in part because they are so eager to please others and are constantly running on nervous energy and the desire to not “rock the boat”. These people often are at least partially aware of what they are doing and deeply dislike it, which causes them further anxiety and exhaustion, but they feel powerless to change their patters for fear of the interpersonal repercussions.

In a more general  nervine sense, Maria Treben said that:

“Golden Rod proves its worth as a medicinal plant which influences the human emotions most favourably. It should therefore be drunk without delay in cases of disappointments and emotional stress. We feel the soothing effect of this plant almost like a calming and caressing hand in severe emotional stress. Even the sight of the Golden Rod in nature has a quieting effect on us. We should be thankful that there grows a plant around us which can bring us such comfort.”

Indeed, Goldenrod brings cheery and comfort both from its simple beauty and presence in the fields and meadows, and also as a profoundly effective medicine and essential remedy.

Goldenrod is certainly a wonderful aromatic digestive bitter and carminative, and works very nicely to free stuck energy from the gut and strengthen overall digestion and absorption. Bitterness varies a great deal from species to species, so if you’re very interested in this aspect of the plant you’d be well advised to take the time taste the different spp. of Solidago that live near you, as there are almost certain to be many varieties with a multitude of taste balances between astringent, aromatic and bitter. I am especially prone to use Goldenrod for those who consistently feel cold and have gut stagnation where food just wants to sit in the belly like a lump, and where there is concurrent feelings of sadness and the blues that accompanies digestive upset and chilly weather. In acute flu and cold situations, Goldenrod tea or the elixir or tincture added to a hot diffusive tea of some kind, especially Ginger, is wonderful for nausea, stomach cramping and general malaise of the digestive tract. Being diaphoretic in action, it can also increase peripheral circulation, open the pores and help to equalize temperature in cases of fever.

If you have a very astringent spp on hand, it can also be quite helpful in general diarrhea, both in drying up secretions (if it becomes chronic or dangerously acute, it’s not necessarily a good idea to stop diarrhea right away, since the body is likely trying to get rid of something, better to just stay hydrated and deal with the underlying problem) as well as calming the inevitable belly turbulence that accompanies the primary complaint.

goldenrod4The oil or liniment makes a fabulous and very effective topical treatment for any sort of hurt, strained or damaged muscles. It works better than Arnica in many cases for this specific application and I always keep it on hand and include it in my pain liniments. I have even used it externally in many cases of severe uterine or ovarian cramping and it works very well, especially when the pain and cramping is exacerbated by cold and exhaustion, and feels better with pressure and warmth. I love combining it with Evening Primrose and Cottonwood for this application. Barbara Hall over at Lady Barbara’s Garden has also popularized it for all sorts of achy pains, including arthritis in the hands and many people swear by the oil for their painful, stiff fingers come winter.

Additionally, any part of the plant is a wonderful wound remedy, particularly on old, slow-healing wounds that ooze and refuse to heal completely. It’s also useful in the treatment of sore, sensitive bruises and contusions.

Special consideration should be given to the variability of the flavors and scents within the great many spp. of Solidago. If you have multiple species near you (and you probably do) take the time to taste the leaf and flower of each kind, and get to know the subtle differences. The most aromatic tend to be more helpful for mood elevation, kidney problems and external use, while the more bitter or bitter/aromatic spp. are especially nice for digestive issues and the astringent/aromatic types are great for upper respiratory issues and general mucus membrane over-secretion. These type of subtleties apply to all herbs, but Goldenrod tends to be a great example of it because of the many spp. and sensory variances even within a single species or subspecies.

Preferred Preparations:
Fresh flower or flowering tops tincture, flower infused honey, root tincture, infusion or strong tea of dried leaves or flowering tops, flower or flowering tops infused oil, flower elixir

Cautions & Contradictions:
Almost none known, although Aster family plant sensitivity is possible. Some sources recommend avoiding during pregnancy, but I don’t know of a specific reason why. And please, do not use Goldenrod as a substitute for medical care in cases of serious kidney disease or infection.

Resources & References:
The Book of Herbal Wisdom and other writings by Matthew Wood
Herbs for the Urinary Tract by Michael Moore
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann
Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande by L.S.M. Curtin
King’s American Dispensatory


All Photos (c)2009 Kiva Rose

  16 Responses to “Blue Mountain Tea: A Sunny Medicine for Cloudy Days”

  1. Kiva – as always I love reading your articles. Quick question about Solidago spp.; can any Solidago be used similarly and with general safety?


    • Hi Melinda,

      As I indicated above, there is a great variety of Solidagos, and there will be differences in action based on the taste and scent of the varying spp. As far as I know, all Solidagos are medicinal to some degree and none are toxic, and certainly the most common type such as S. canadensis and S. odora are known to be beneficial.

      There has been some record of toxicity to livestock fed Solidago mollis, because of a fungus called Goldenrod rust that had contaminated the feed. Other than that, as far as I know Solidago has not toxicity whatsoever.

  2. I absolutely love Goldenrod, and I always learn even more about it when I read your blog Kiva! I love the dried green leaves as tea, and they taste great, better than Dandelion to me! I also loved discovering on Susun Weed’s website that Goldenrod was also called “Liberty Tea” and what the rebelling Colonists drank when the Boston Tea Party was an issue – they likely had good health benefits as well! I like the idea of attempting to find different species (I think I found one with a large bulb toward the top third of the stem, not sure which species that is, but the taste was milder). Thanks Kiva, as always – you ROCK!

  3. Thank you, AarTiana! Goldenrod, does have a long and very interesting history which I hope to go into more at some point. I’d forgotten the Liberty Tea name though, I’ll have to add that to the post, so thank you! If you look at plants.usda.gov and look up Solidago, that’s one fairly easy way of figuring out which spp are living your area and then work from there to figure out who’s who.

  4. I did what you suggested, but didn’t see what I notice – so I did a google image search for “Solidago” until I found photos resembling what I see – boy did I learn something! The ones I usually harvest are most likely S. Canadensis, but the ones with these “bulbs” seem to be the S. altissima variety – but with a gall fly infestation!
    Learn something every day!
    Here is Susun Weed’s Goldenrod Post:

  5. Ah, no wonder… Our Solidago’s don’t get that but the Oaks and certain other plants here definitely do… Oak galls, specifically, have a medicinal value of their own, I wonder if the Goldenrod Galls do as well?

  6. Most medicinal goldenrod originates in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and other eastern European countries. (Solidago virgaurea) Used widely in Europe to treat urinary tract infections and help eliminate kidney or bladder stones. In Germany, where goldenrod has government approval as an aid in treating urinary tract disorders, the plant is often combined with java tea leaf, birch leaf, or uva ursi leaf. In North America (s. Canadensis) is the most common species and the small sweet goldenrod (s. odora) has anise scented leaves used to make herbal tea. In the Appalachian Mountain region, Blue Mountain Tea was used to battle fatique and the Native American drank goldenrod for sore throats. Chippewa Indians called it gizisomukiki, meaning sun medicine. The Blue Ridge Goldenrod has been designated as a threatened species.
    Another fact; the flowers of the goldenrod can be made into a wonderful dye for cloth and watercolors on porous paper.
    Whenever you see the golden yellow bloom of the goldenrod you will be sure to find the sweet blue aster always beside her.
    Here in upstate NY, woodpeckers have learned to pick the galls to get to the larvae inside.

    • Well, Helena, as far as I know pretty much all Solidagos are medicinal and they originate from all over the world not just eastern Europe, in fact, there are more than a hundred in N. America and a little over a dozen in South America, Europe and Asia combined (and most of those are actually derived from N. American spp and I think there’s actually only one species indigenous to Europe, all others are imported!)….

      Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my post.

  7. Hello Kiva!

    Amazing how life works…I was just discussing Goldenrod with my Sisters in Celebration ladies at our annual gathering this weekend; I get home, and here is your perfect description of our fabulous plant sibling!

    Thank you for sharing this!
    Danu Gray Wolf

  8. have you ever used goldenrod and rosemary together? they sound like they’d make a great combination for treating chronic fatigue and carminative issues.

    • I have, but only as a tea, they are indeed a lovely combo where there coldness and fatigue. The combo is personally too hot and stimulating for me most of the time (mostly the Rosemary combined with my labile blood pressure and deficiency heat) but works really well for many kapha types how need warmth and movement from their herbs 🙂

  9. Great posting, Kiva! This completely jives with my experiences with goldenrod, esp as helping with allergies, UT issues, and externally for muscle pains. I never totally keyed in on the benefits to the liver (under stress from kidney deficiency), but that figures totally for a yellow-flowered plant. The info about SAD and anxious/nervous exhaustion is new to me, but also figures for a plant that seems to be an all-around great kidney tonic. I can’t wait to try more uses of goldenrod this winter!

    Gathering some this week. I LOVE seeing all the insects on the goldenrod and sharing it’s bounty with them.

    Why was it called blue mountain tea? Was it because of the “Blue Ridge” or (I wonder) does the plant have a “blue” calming effect (similar to the blue essential oils of cousins yarrow and chamomile)?

    • Thanks Susan for your sweet comment!

      I had begun using Goldenrod for all sorts of liver deficiency type issues based mostly on its taste and then more recently, Matt Wood really expanded my understanding of how that works and wow, now I’m using it all the time!

      I believe the name Blue Mountain Tea originates with the Pennsylvania Dutch, but I as far as I can remember none of my sources cite exactly why… I should ask Susan Hess, I bet she’ll know 🙂

  10. wonderful info about one of the prettiest wildflowers there is kiva! thank you for sharing your wisdom. very interesting that ananda noted the benefit of goldenrod and seasonal affect disorder. i am thinking that this particular plant would be very beneficial to our family as we have members who suffer from SAD, arthritis and several other conditions mentioned in this lovely article. thank you for all you do kiva.

  11. The Goldenrod is just starting to come on in my area and I am excited to start harvest so that I can utilitze it more. I love using my local herbs and always check you blog to see what other uses everything has. Thanks Kiva for all the info that you provide to help those of us still learning. 🙂

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